The New Meaning of Text

Today will come to be seen as a landmark in the history of Scottish education, with  the publication of the new Curriculum for Excellence frameworks in the eight curriculum areas of expressive arts, health and wellbeing, languages, mathematics, religious and moral education, sciences, social studies and technologies. The revised curriculum has a clearly stated purpose – to ensure that all the children and young people of Scotland develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need if they are to flourish in life, learning and work, now and in the future – which is further encapsulated in the four “capacities”, providing learning and teaching opportunities which will enable young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. A key difference in the new curriculum is that it is described in terms of outcomes or “I can………..” statements rather than inputs or content, which is how curricula have traditionally been defined (NB this is not the same as saying that content is not important!) thereby shifting the emphasis and the main responsibility for learning to the learner, which is exactly where it belongs. 

Having been involved in the early stages of drafting the framework for Literacy and English, I am delighted to see the formal recognition, alongside books, of non-print texts including film, and the word “watching” given equal status with “listening” and “talking”. The full definition of “text” appears as follows;-

“A text is the medium through which ideas, experiences, opinions and information can be communicated.”

The document helpfully offers a range of possible texts for use in the classroom, and I think it would be a good idea for any teacher responsible for the development of literacy to have a graphic reminder of all the options avaialable, so that when planning a series of lessons or a course of work, a reasonable balance can be achieved over the week, or the term, or the academic session. I have presented these in the form of a Wordle, which could easily be enlarged and printed as a poster to put up on the wall of your classroom as a reminder to you and your students.


The Meaning of Text


16 thoughts on “The New Meaning of Text

  1. Hi Bill

    I too feel that today is an extremely important day for Scottish education (and hopefully for further afield than Scotland).

    I’m pleased to see that not much has changed from the Draft Literacy Outcomes and the widening of the meaning of text is indeed a vital one. Having been an advocate of the need for this reinterpretation I am extremely excited that this will encourage a transformation of the curriculum, one where the (invisible) hierarchical structure of what is and what is not a valid text to be used in the classroom, will be broken down.

    Creating multimodal resources in relation to these Outcomes will be a delight!

  2. It’s a great opportunity Andy as you say. However, the outcomes themselves won’t move teachers forward unless the support and encouragement is there from others in “authority”. The old prejudices will still surface from time to time and we have to be prepared for attempts to rubbish the experiences and outcomes, especially from the old establishment.

  3. This is indeed a great opportunity. Being involved in Moving Image Education, sometimes it felt like you had to justify using film in literacy times, either as a study for reading, or a stimulus for writing. But here it is, written down, in text! (lol?)

    I guess the hope is that ALL staff buy into this, not seeing it as an added extra now, but as THE curriculum…

    (much more to think about…)

  4. Hi Rich,
    You are absolutely right. Of course, the study of film is every bit as valid as the study of every other text, and sometimes more so than say a novel which is far more alien to many young people than a book.

  5. Am sure that there will be quite a bit of resistance, yet I don’t feel that it’s dependent on those in “authority”. It is up to everyone involved in education, whatever their capacity.

    As the Literacy Leader for my school, I will do my hardest to fully embed the outcomes across the curriculum. Already teachers are having to examine the outcomes and match them to their subjects. Yet, they must also use the language that is within this document too. I am certain that I will be met with some resistance and that will be expected and I will relish that, becuase it will mean that folk are thinking about them! As I’m sure you know, some people will always resist change.

    Unfortunately, it’s also not just the old establishment who will resist. Some of those just out of their probationary year are also hardcore traditionalists. This is perhaps more worrying (?).

    As far as I’m aware every school has a Literacy Leader (or someone of a similar title) and I feel confident and optimistic that these people will be supported by their SMT and QIOs, to fully deliver and embed these outcomes into teaching throughout the school. I seriously hope I’m not being naive here!

    I, for one, am ready for those who will rubbish the experiences and outcomes.

  6. Not so aware of the issue with newly qualified teachers Andy but if that is the case then it is indeed worrying. I had those in “authority” in inverted commas since there are those who can make it difficult for others to be innovative simply because of their position rather than their knowledge, their experience or their intellect.


  7. Pingback: Using Different Texts « Mr W’s Blogging Great Thing

  8. I’ve been trying to look at literarcy across curriculum for years so finally have something concrete to go with. Looking forward to getting to grips with the outcomes and experiences.

  9. Bill,

    I agree with everything that has been said here. While I know that formal examinations should not determine what is being learned and taught, nevertheless I think that it is a fact that the nature of the literacy awards will have a strong influence on how the O’s/E’s are developed. Therefore I think that the next step is for all those with an opinion to do what they can to ensure that the literacy awards assess what they should assess.


  10. You have a good point Gordon. However, I remain sceptical that any literacy awards will be able to reflect the broader definitions of literacy which underpin the new framework, or indeed that any consultation will take full account of digital/new media literacies. I think the call for these awards comes largely from folk such as the CBI whose idea of literacy is often restricted to handwriting and punctuation. Another danger of course is that the literacy awards will not so much have an influence on how the Experiences and Outcomes are developed, which sounds quite reasonable, but that for some they will remain undeveloped at the expense of teaching to the test.

  11. Bill, I guess my points would be first, that whether we think it is a good idea or not, the govt is going to introduce lit/num awards. Secondly, I agree that the motivation for this comes largely from groups who have a very narrow definition of literacy, texts and so on.

    Given those two starting points, it is therefore incumbent on all of us to do what we can to ensure that the awards do reflect the principles of CfE as far as is possible.


  12. While I agree with you in principle Gordon, I’m not sure how an award in itself will be able to reflect the principles of Curriculum for Excellence. I think the demonstration of appropriate literacies according to need (job interview, university application, business start-up etc etc ) is what really matters. I believe also that there is another responsibility we all share, and that is to influence government thinking rather than simply reflecting it. Interested to hear what others think.


  13. Great site this and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  14. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for getting the ball rolling so well. And thanks for doing the first wordle and giving me the impetus to do my own!

    As you know, I’m hoping the real conversation will start taking place everywhere… I’ve got two days INSET after the holiday and it’s being given over to the Experiences and Outcomes document(s) as they apply to the school and the department.

    Challenging times lie ahead, but it’s a really exciting place and time to be in education!


  15. Very true Neil. I’d be interested to know how you plan to approach the two days. If I can be of any help give me a shout.


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